It has been a relatively mild winter so far in the northeast. This has advantages and some downsides for our lawns and gardens. The warmer weather has allowed for new shoots of grass to appear at random and lawns have remained partially green. Unfortunately, the lack of significant precipitation has resulted in drought like conditions in some areas. As well, snow can serve as insulation for our lawns when the temperatures do plunge to below freezing.
As the winter season begins to wind down planning for spring lawn care is on many people’s minds. This is the time to partner with your lawn care services professional to put an action plan in place for the upcoming warmer months, which we hope will bring us some much needed rain.
Here are some things we recommend to get your lawn ready for spring to ensure it is healthy and green.
Rake Up Debris
Remove debris, such as dead leaves, branches, and grass clippings leftover from the last cutting. Raking stimulates the grass and soil to allow for better ventilation, more moisture penetration, and more sun exposure. It also encourages new growth. In a sense, raking is a simple method to help aerate the soil. After raking, have the debris removed and disposed of properly.
Aerate the Soil
If you have really hard, compact soil, consider having it aerated to allow roots more room to grow. This can also help with any snow mold that might have accumulated on the lawn surface. We aerate using a tool with hollow tines that removes small plugs of soil from your lawn.
Some of the new growth you are seeing might be crabgrass. The best time to get rid of crabgrass is when soil temperatures are below 50 to 55 degrees F. You don’t want to wait too late in the season to do this.
We recommend applying what is called pre-emergent crabgrass preventer. It is best to apply this approximately 8 weeks before you want to put down new grass seed. Timing and temperature are important when it comes to getting rid of troublesome crabgrass.
Feed Your Soil
Fertilizers should be used judiciously and at the recommendation of your lawn care professional. If your lawn needs to be nourished, we recommend using a fertilizer that is time released and low in nitrogen this time of year. Grass is relatively hardy in spring in the northeast, as long as it is getting plenty of sunlight and moisture. Your lawn may not require an early application of fertilizer. We can help determine that for you.
After your crabgrass has thinned out and your soil is aerated and nourished, it may be time to reseed your lawn. This is best done when soil temperatures are well above 55 degrees F. We suggest filling in bare patches with seed, cutting and fitting areas with fresh sod, or doing an overall seed broadcast.
Seeding too early in the season could result in the seed not taking hold quickly enough and germinating. One of the hazards of this is that birds see the seed on the soil surface as free food. You may lose more grass seed to birds than you anticipated. We can recommend the best time to reseed based on the current weather conditions. It’s a good idea to seek professional advice on the appropriate grass seed for your climate, sun exposure, and soil conditions.
Protecting newly seeded or sodded areas of lawn is a good idea. After application of seed or sod, we recommend covering the area with protective natural materials to prevent damage or erosion from rain and wind.
Maintain Your Equipment
If you are a DIYer and prefer to manage your own lawn care, let us help you with equipment maintenance. This is a good time of year to assess the condition of your tools, mowers, and sprinkler systems.
Lawn mowers are notorious for needing constant maintenance. Oil needs to be changed. Blades need to be sharpened and adjusted to the proper height. Parts need to be lubricated. Have a specialist take a look at your equipment and offer helpful suggestions. So many times we have seen blades that are set too low destroying perfectly healthy new grass in spring.
Mow New Growth
As your spring lawn begins to fill in with bright green grass, it is time to start maintaining it by cutting the grass. The first few cuttings should be spaced well apart and the grass should not be cut too low. We always adjust our lawn cutting equipment blades to the appropriate seasonal lawn mowing requirements to encourage constant growth.
Put a Plan and Schedule in Place
We realize it is still winter in the Northeast, but this is a great time to put a maintenance plan in place for upcoming lawn care. We encourage you have a lawn care professional assess your lawn and go over a schedule and budget for proper maintenance.